Yakima officials have met with representatives of classic car clubs and downtown businesses to iron out a few changes to the popular summertime Cruisin' the Ave events.
The Yakima City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to move forward with prohibiting semi-truck cabs from participating in the cruises and shortening the event by one hour.
Council members directed staff to prepare changes to the cruising ordinance and bring it back before the City Council for a final vote at a later date.
Cruise nights would begin at 6:30 p.m. on the second and third Saturday of June, July, August and September, and end at 9:30 p.m., cutting the event from four to three hours.
This summer’s Cruisin' the Ave events are scheduled June 10 and 17, July 8 and 15, Aug. 12 and 19, and Sept. 9 and 16 along Yakima Avenue.
City Manager Bob Harrison and council member Patricia Byers reported on their recent meeting with members of the Corvette Club and Vintiques and several representatives of the downtown business community. Three requests for changes resulted in:
• Prohibiting semi-truck cabs from participating, due to noise concerns.
• Adjusting the authorized cruise’s closing time from 10 p.m. to 9 p.m.
• Changing the route to have cruisers turn on Third Street in order to return to Yakima Avenue, rather than using Naches Avenue for the turnaround.
The latter request came from hotel managers and owners on the east end of Yakima Avenue, Byers said.
“The complaints from hotel owners weren’t just about noise,” she added. “Their customers also are having trouble getting into and out of the parking lots on cruise nights. That’s why they want (the route) shortened to Third Street.”
Yakima Police Department Capt. Jay Seely attended Tuesday’s council meeting and said barricades and other measures to corral the cruisers down Third Street would require additional hours and costs for the police department.
Seely said he currently assigns two officers on motorcycles and two officers on bicycles to help with traffic and crowd control on cruise nights. The additional staffing costs $1,800 per event – assuming there are no major problems – for a total of $14,400 each summer.
Placing barricades and enforcing the new route would add another $7,120 in staffing costs, Seely said, bringing the total to $21,520 in police department expenses for the summer.
“Barricades on Third Street is not a great solution,” he added. “No matter what we do (to change the route), there’s going to be somebody unhappy that there are loud cars in their neighborhood.”
Seely also suggested adjusting Cruisin' the Ave hours to 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. rather than simply ending things an hour earlier, at 9 p.m., since it is easier for officers to clear cruisers off Yakima Avenue once it’s dark.
Both Byers and Seely suggested car clubs could contribute financially to help the city pay for the eight cruise nights.
“I would like the city to temporarily ban cruise night and let the car clubs get together and work out a solution,” Byers said. “If they want something special, we can only do this if they’re willing to pay.
“I’m not opposed to the car clubs or anything – I just want to take a different look at how we do (cruise nights),” she added.
Harrison and council member Matt Brown said some of the car clubs who participate in the cruises were unable to be part of the meeting discussing changes.
Brown said most of the business owners and car club members who attended the meeting were in favor of the three proposed changes to Cruisin' the Ave nights, adding that the noise of semi-truck cabs were the major complaint from the businesses.
He did not favor getting rid of the cruise nights since “they’re still going to do something – it’s a road.”
Cruise nights, and “cruising the Ave” in general, have been controversial since at least the 1990s, when cruising Yakima Avenue was banned in 1994 following a downtown shooting.
The officially sanctioned cruises were established in 2005 before being canceled again in 2019 due to insurance concerns.
In fall 2019, the council modified the city’s cruising ordinance to set up the 6-10 p.m. schedule on the second and third Saturdays of June through September.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to say that the council directed staff to prepare an ordinance with the changes and bring it back to the council for a final vote at a later date. It also has been changed to say the turnaround would be Third Street, not Third Avenue, as mentioned in the agenda packet.
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